This month, Conscious Magazine is headed to D.C. for the Media Rise Festival hosted by Media Rise, “a global nonprofit volunteer-driven alliance that connects people and ideas to promote meaningful media.” With a mission to “empower people to create meaningful media that promotes universal human values such as compassion, empathy and respect,” Conscious 100% aligns with the organization’s values and purpose, which is why we’re excited to introduce you to the person whose spirit and hard work is bringing this conversation to the forefront among creatives, influencers, change-makers, and more in the D.C. area.

01 | Erica, What inspired you to launch the Media Rise Festival?
I started my career as a journalist, naturally drawn to writing stories about things like environmental sustainability or social justice, but I wasn’t sure if my byline was making a real difference. So I made the conscious decision to switch to the nonprofit sector, thinking I’d have more impact. I joined the communications team at an environmental think tank, but then ran into another problem: storytelling wasn’t always valued enough, since so much of the nonprofit’s mission was focused on technical, on-the-ground work. At that point, I started a personal blog called Benevolent Media, to explore storytelling and design for social good. When I thought about how to expand the blog beyond just me and build a community, I discovered that face-to-face events were the best way to bring people together around a shared vision. I hosted my first Benevolent Media Festival in 2011, with a group of friends and volunteers, and the project has since evolved into Media Rise. This time around, I have the support of my two co-founders, Mandar Apte, a chemical engineer and “intrapreneur” who brings his expertise in social innovation from the corporate sector, and Dr. Srivi Ramanasubramanian, a media professor and scholar who shares her academic approach to community engagement. We each bring our unique point-of-view to the festival, but at the end of the day, we’re committed to the same goal of promoting meaningful media.

02 | Tell us 3 reasons why you’re excited for the Media Rise Festival?
One, the people. We bring together a very diverse community. People who ordinarily don’t have the chance to interact all of a sudden convene for the same cause. And everyone in the room is knowledgeable, inspiring and generous. Two, the programming. This year, in addition to our signature events like the youth festival and daylong Forum, we’re pleased to offer additional evening film screenings and lunchtime workshops, which we didn’t have in our previous festivals. Three, the competitions. Our Pitch Night showcases amazing projects that leverage different types of media, art, design and technology for social change, and our Doc-in-a-Day challenge results in beautiful videos to help local nonprofits with their outreach efforts.

03 | Who will be at Media Rise?
We seek to convene four main audiences to advance our mission:

  • Creatives, like filmmakers, photographers, writers and artists, who produce high-quality media but may not know how to use their media to drive social impact.
  • Changemakers, like nonprofit advocates, government leaders or activists, who have a very worthy mission but may not know how to tell their story effectively to get people to support their cause.
  • Businesses, like PR agencies, advertising firms and news organizations, who hold a lot of money and influence in creating media but may not be using their resources in the most positive way.
  • Academics, like educators, researchers and students, who hold a lot of knowledge about media’s impact on society but may not be sharing their findings with relevant audiences.

04 | What should people expect to take away?
People should expect to be inspired to create and consume media for social impact—whatever the medium, whatever the cause. People should expect to feel empowered once they realize we are all mediamakers—whether we’re composing a tweet or posting a video—and we have more influence than we may think. People should expect to be meet other festival attendees who can offer their connections, expertise and enthusiasm to support each other’s work. 

05 | Lastly, how can the power of media accelerate social change?

1. From the beginning of human history, stories define our culture and beliefs. In short, they create our reality. We have the power to shape the world we want through the stories we share on various forms of media. And we have to choose whether to use that power positively or negatively.

2. Mediamaking creates meaning. Things happen, and we interpret them. We tell and re-tell our experiences in order to make sense of them. Because of this expressive and reflective nature, media—in whatever form—can become a forum for community organizing, dialogue, activism and social action.

3. We no longer rely on the “one-to-many” model of content distribution. “Mainstream” media doesn’t really exist anymore. Instead, we have many people sharing to many more audiences, who are all receiving and contributing information at the same time, so the potential for extremely targeted messaging is unprecedented. When we want to use media to mobilize around a specific social cause, it becomes easier than ever to find a niche and build a community. The challenge is learning how to unite fragmented communities across disparate networks with a credible and authoritative voice—that’s when movements begin.

4. Traditional news organizations are still relevant and necessary, but regular citizens are also realizing the value of real-time, user-generated media. As we’ve seen, a single tweet or mobile video can spark a whole news cycle and raise awareness about a previously unknown thing. As media consumers, we’ll need to hone our literacy skills to determine fact from fiction, and put things in context, or else be distracted by sensationalism or misinformation, in our fight for social justice.

5. Creating socially conscious media is only the start of initiating social change. The next step is figuring out what to do with that media. If it’s a film, what do we want our viewers to do? If it’s a news article, what do we want our readers to know? If it’s a performance, how do we want our audiences to change? In other words, how do we move from raising awareness to inciting action? It takes strategy, partnerships, influencers and outreach.

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At Conscious, we are inspired by remarkable people and organizations and so we set out to tell stories that highlight human interests, global initiatives, innovation, community development and social impact. You can read more stories like this when you subscribe.ConciousMag-750x90